May 10, 2013
Master of Landscape Architecture (MLArch) student Sara Street has a different sort of commute than her peers. Her home is in Laporte, the county seat of Sullivan County, a good three hours away from Temple University Ambler.
The logistical nightmare of such a daily trek, particularly while raising her 8-year-old son, Rowan, seems overwhelming on the surface. However, Street’s dedication to continuing to hone her talents as a landscape architect — and a particular passion for ecological restoration — has helped her surmount the insurmountable.
“Originally I tried to do the commute — to do my school work at home — and that proved impossible. Basically I get all of my school work done during the week while I’m here,” said Street, 39. “I rent a room at a property adjoining Temple Ambler and walk the trail to campus. At home, I have a really wonderful support system with my parents taking care of my son — without them, none of this works.”
A certified arborist with a horticulture background, Street said she returned to the classroom “because I wanted a higher education degree that tied into my previous experience.”
“When I was working in the field, I felt I had hit a point where I couldn’t advance any further — I was in a holding pattern,” she said. “Every job that I’ve had, I wanted to learn something new, something different. I desired a new challenge.”
Street’s career challenges over the years have included positions as a trail crew laborer and wildland firefighter at the North Cascades National Park Service Complex in Marblemount, Washington; an assistant section grower at Hines Horticulture; an adjunct Horticulture faculty member at the Pennsylvania College of Technology; and a certified arborist and notification foreman for Dincher & Dincher Tree Surgeons in Williamsport.
Street discovered Temple’s Landscape Architecture program through a series of fortunate connections, she said.
“Laporte has a lot of summer residents, one of whom lives in the Philadelphia area near the Art Museum. She knew about my particular interest in plants and gardening and said ‘You need to meet my friend John Collins (founder and first chair of Temple’s Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture),”’ she said. “From there, that brought me to Temple’s Website and meetings with the chairs of both the Department of Community and Regional Planning and Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture. With my background and interests, the Landscape Architecture master’s program was a great fit.”
Being among the first MLArch students, Street said she felt that the faculty “were open to listening to student feedback” and willing to make any changes and adjustments that might help students succeed in the program.
“I’ve always felt that we as students have a voice and that we’ve been able to pursue our particular interests in the program,” she said. “I want to focus on ecological restoration. You need wild spaces to balance out the urban environments — you can’t have one without the other.”
While completing the program, Street, a Landscape Architecture and Horticulture Faculty Award recipient for “academic excellence and personal growth,” was able to intern with LandStudies, Inc. in Lititz, Pennsylvania, as a landscape installer, installing floodplains, riparian buffers and rain gardens in addition to managing invasive plants.
Through her capstone course, Street is now working with Construction Specialties, Inc. in Muncy, PA as a natural resources/environmental coordinator tasked with creating “an ecological restoration plan for a manufacturing company that wants to become a role model for land stewardship.”
“I’ve always felt that I’ve had the opportunity to learn something new throughout the program. The progression from what I knew when I first started to what I know now has been revolutionary,” she said. “The hands-on work and projects have increased in complexity, which has been very beneficial. And as students, we’re not just learning from the faculty; we’re always learning from each other. We are peers and colleagues with shared interests and goals, but we’re also able to really explore what we are passionate about and reach our individual goals as well.”